The grapes of climate change
It is undisputable that climate change is now affecting ripening of grapes in Europe and North America.
These changes can be observed by studying alcohol levels of Piedmontese, Burundian, Bordeaux, Rheingau, and Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula.
Half a century ago, Burgundy, or Bordeaux wines contained anywhere from 11 – 13 per cent alcohol by volume at best, but now 14 – 14 .5 ABV are almost standard.
Harvesting time has also changed in most wine producing regions i.e Piedmont nebbiolo grapes fro Barolo, or Barbarseco were picked in November, now they are picked at the end of September.
A 2016 study has found that since the 17th century climate change has pushed harvest dates forward drastically in France and Switzerland.
During the last 50 years, in Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula harvests took place at he end of September to mid-October.
Now, harvests start approximately mid-august the beginning of September (in 2012 August 12, 2013 September 2, 2014 August 20, 2015 September 3, and 2016 August 26).
Some researchers claim that a decade from now some wine regions would become too warm to grow traditional grape varieties, i.e. nebbiolo in Piedmont, pinot noir in Burgundy, cabernet sauvignon in Bordeaux.
In Ontario pinot noir, riesling, and chardonnay enjoy popularity because of their late ripening characteristics, and affinity to cool temperatures may have to be replaced with other varieties that thrive in warm climates. (Think syrah in Ontario, or even grenache and other Rhone Valley varieties).
While altitude may be able to offset some of the warming only few regions have that option.
Cool growing regions will benefit by riper grapes, which in turn will change aromatics, mouth feel, and alcohol levels.
Yet, other regions that up to now have been not been able to grow grapes as is the case in Scotland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and even Sweden.
Draught is another problem that must be dealt with by irrigation.
Constantly warm growing weather yield low acid fruit which changes the whole flavour and aromatic profile of the wine.
Climate change will change viticulture all over the world, leading to monumental restructuring of grape selection, viticultural practices, and vivification technology.
There is no likelihood of wine shortages, but a great likelihood of completely different wines that wine drinkers are now privileged to drink.